Parents dread receiving a letter or telephone call indicating a head lice epidemic has occurred at their child's school. While this may spark panic at first, parents should take heed.
Many of the rumors concerning head lice are simply false. The following information will help parents acquire the knowledge of head lice that can lead to safe and confident treatments.
Lice: Past to Present
Head lice have been in existence since recorded time began. A study conducted in 2009 on the mummy of Ferdinand II of Aragon (1467 - 1496), King of Naples, exposed his infestation of head lice. This indicates that even up until a few hundred years ago, members of royalty were subject to lice infestations.
Today, scientists reveal that head lice are becoming increasingly numerous. This is because commercial treatments have lost efficacy in eradicating lice. As those remedies were applied numerous times to numerous people, lice evolved immunity to them.
Moreover, commercial lice treatments are linked to numerous health risks that pose real dangers to people of all ages. Parents should thus explore alternative remedies that are free of chemicals and more likely to work effectively.
Dispelling Frequent Myths of Head Lice
One of the most common myths associated with lice is that they afflict persons who live in a dirty home or are in some way hygienically inferior. In truth, lice do not discriminate based on social or economical status. Everyone is at risk for head lice, regardless of where or with whom they live.
Moreover, studies reveal that the natural conditions of day care centers and elementary schools are ideal for head lice epidemics. Although they may appear as such, head lice are not a disease. They also are not dangerous to the health or well-being of a person. The only serious affliction associated with head lice is that of secondary skin infection that may result from bites.
Many people are allergic to lice saliva, thereby causing the incessant itch linked to lice. If persons scratch with enough vigor and frequency, additional skin infections may ensue. People and animals cannot pass head lice to each other. This means that human outbreaks do not necessitate treatment for pets.
Scientists also reveal that head lice prefer clean heads to those that are dirty. Finally, head lice occur worldwide, and can spread in any manner of ways. These include coming into close contact with someone already infested, wearing infested clothing, and sitting or lying on a contaminated floor or piece of furniture.
Options for Prevention and Treatment
According to the Directors of Health Promotion and Education, between 6 and 12 million cases of head lice are reported annually. Most of these occur in children between the ages of 3 and 10. Therefore, one of the most proactive steps parents can take is to educate their children about lice. This includes encouraging them to not share such objects as hair brushes, pillows, blankets, hair ribbons, towels and other personal belongings.
For their part, parents should investigate schools, camps and day-care centers to ensure they provide separate storage areas for personal articles and clothing. Coat hooks should be widely spaced, and sleeping mats need to be assigned to only one child at a time. Dress-up clothes and costumes should be washed between uses, and teachers and children alike should wash their hands frequently.
Such strategies can help prevent outbreaks. Once a course of treatment has been determined for the afflicted person, his or her home must also be sufficiently cleansed. The following guidelines can help with ensuring all parts of a home are disinfected and free of additional lice.
- Machine wash bed linens, towels and clothing that were exposed to the infected person in hot water. They should then be dried on a hot cycle for at least 20 minutes.
- Dry cleaned Clothing that is not washable.
- Seal non-washable items like stuffed animals and pillows in plastic bags for two weeks.
- Soak hair brushes and combs in rubbing alcohol or Lysol for one hour.
- Thoroughly vacuum household floors and furniture. Commercial lice sprays are toxic and must be avoided.